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2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #60 D.J. Brown

The 2017 prospect countdown continues with a big, versatile right-hander who has proven to be a jack-of-all-trades arm who can handle any role and who also provides some upside as a potential Major League option down the road...

60. D.J. Brown – Right-handed Pitcher

Born: 11/28/1990 – Height: 6’6” – Weight: 205 – Bats: Right – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Brown was selected by the Indians in the 39th round of the 2012 Draft out of James Madison University (VA). In the fall of 2011 he suffered a labrum tear to his right shoulder which required surgery and prematurely ended his 2012 college season and delayed his pro debut that same year.

Stuff: Brown is a command and control right-handed pitcher who has a deep mix of pitches that he controls and mixes well. He uses a pitch-to-contact approach where he aggressively pounds the strike zone to get ahead of hitters and work to generate weak contact while efficiently keeping his pitch count in check. He features a solid average two-seam fastball that comfortably sits at 88-92 MPH and on occasion will reach 94 MPH, and really has a lot of confidence in it and commands it well to both sides of the plate. It shows good late life and gets some good sink to the bottom of the zone. He doesn’t really have a primary secondary offering, but his changeup and slider are interchangeable and he made incremental strides with both pitches last season. His average slurvy slider has started to show more consistency around the zone and shows some good tilt to it where the Indians believe it could still become more of a swing and miss pitch as he tightens it up end up solid average. His fringe average changeup is still a work in progress but he does a nice job of mixing it in to both lefties and righties to keep them off balance.

Delivery & Intangibles: Brown has a very nice tall, slender frame that brings a lot of size and length which in turn really helps him create some deception and leverage the baseball on hitters. He throws from a three-quarter slot and has solidified a delivery that he is able to repeat. He is very consistent with his outings where he just goes out and does a good job of commanding his stuff, attacking the zone, trusting his defense, keeping hitters guessing and showing no fear in going after them. He has proven to be extremely durable since his labrum surgery and provides a ton of versatility to pitch in any role when needed. 

Focus: For the first few years Brown was in the system the primary focus was about getting him healthy and back to full strength, which he has done and then some. Now, the focus is more on finding ways to add a little more power to his stuff and generating some more swing and miss to it. The Indians continue to work to get him stronger which not only will help him stay durable, but potentially add some more power to his fastball and slider which could end up in an uptick in both offerings. The slider is probably his biggest key since he lacks a true out pitch and doesn’t have the high velocity fastball to get a lot of swing and miss, so the Indians would like to see him tighten it up so it has some sharper break to the edge of the zone and even out of it to generate more chase. While his command is good, he could use some refinement in the command of his fastball to his glove side and be a little more consistent in leveraging it to the bottom of the zone. He also needs to develop a little better awareness of what hitters are doing in the box to pitch away from their strengths and also read their swings to get a better feel for how to finish them off.

Future: Brown is a great story for the Indians as they were unable to scout him at all in his draft year and still selected him even though they had to rely on scouting data that was nearly a year old. That’s almost unheard of, but shows how much they liked him when they last saw him and their confidence that he could overcome his injury. He has since made some great strides in his return from labrum surgery and has already surpassed expectations for a pitcher coming off such a significant surgery over five years ago. After building up his stamina and implementing some mechanical changes to his delivery in his first pro exposure in 2013, he’s really done a nice job the last three seasons of staying on the field, shown a ton of versatility and performed well filling a variety of roles. All of that has created value for him going forward as an upper level depth arm that can pitch in any role as needed. Going forward, he should continue to pitch in a swing role where he goes back and forth between the bullpen and rotation, and is a role the Indians know he can handle and value a lot. That kind of role and outlook typically doesn’t bode well for a pitcher’s Major League future or prospect value as we have seen many pitchers in the past fill such a role who eventually washed out (Paolo Espino, Jordan Cooper, Brett Brach, etc), but Brown is different in that his height and long frame makes him unique and there may still actually be a little more in the tank he can tap into to make him a more attractable Major League option in the pen or rotation. He should open the season in a swing role at Double-A Akron and could see some time at Triple-A Columbus depending on how he is pitching and what need arises there.

Ranking History: #66 (2016), #67 (2015), #70 (2014)

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